Travis Rudolph

No. 1 Clemson clinches ACC Atlantic Division with 23-13 over No. 16 FSU

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The No. 1 Clemson Tigers (9-0, 6-0 ACC) took one giant step closer to a possible spot in the College Football Playoff. The path to the playoff will have to take a quick stop in Charlotte, because Clemson will stopping there to play in the ACC Championship Game at the end of the season regardless of what happens in the next three weeks. Clemson wrapped up possession of the ACC Atlantic Division with a 23-13 victory Saturday over nemesis and rival Florida State.

Clemson took its second lead of the game midway through the fourth quarter when Greg Huegel kicked his third field goal of the game, this latest one from 34 yards out for a 16-13 lead. The only touchdown of the game for Clemson came in the third quarter, with Deon Cain taking a short pass from Deshaun Watson 38 yards to the house for a 13-10 lead on the first drive of the second half. The defense then was asked to come up with a huge stop after a good special teams return by Florida State’s Kermit Whitfield gave the Seminoles possession at the Clemson 49-yard line. Clemson’s defense answered the call, stuffing Florida State’s Dalvin Cook for no gain on fourth down at the Clemson 40-yard line, one years shy of the first down marker. That set up Clemson for the knockout blow, which was delivered by Wayne Gallman by way of a 25-yard rushing touchdown up the middle of the field on Florida State’s defense. The touchdown run came one play after Watson completed a seven-yard pass to Charone Peake to pick up a third down conversion. The final nail in the coffin for the Seminoles came on the ensuing possession when Ben Boulware forced the ball out of the hands of Travis Rudolph, which Clemson recovered.

Clemson had to battle back to get the win, as the Tigers got off to a sluggish start against Florida State. The Seminoles took an early lead on the second play fo the game when Cook rattled off a 75-yard touchdown run, and eclipsed the 100-yard mark on the second possession of the game just minutes later. But Clemson managed to tighten up as the game played out, and Cook was without a big run for most of the night after the first five minutes of the game. Cook ended his day with 194 yards and the one touchdown.

This was the first time Clemson won a football game as the number one team in the country since the 1981 season. That season the Tigers were ranked number one in the AP top 25 after playing the final game of the regular season and defeated Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl. That makes this the first time Clemson won a game in the regular season as the top-ranked team in program history.

Florida State has one remaining ACC contest to play before closing out the regular season with two non-conference games. Next week the Seminoles host North Carolina State. Clemson will hit the road next week to visit Syracuse. The Tigers wrap up ACC regular season play the next week at home against Wake Forest.

Oregon blows out Florida State, advances to first CFP title game

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It was on this same Rose Bowl field a year ago that Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston first displayed his penchant for pulling rabbits out of hats. Turns out that trick does not extend to ducks.

The Seminoles’ 29-game losing streak ended with a resounding thud Thursday night as No. 2 Oregon blew out third-ranked Florida State 59-20 in the inaugural College Football Playoff semifinal.

Oregon led 18-13 after a rip-roaring first half defined by a fourth-and-1 option play where Winston extended for what was originally ruled a touchdown but reversed upon review.

Florida State accepted the ball to start the second half, moved down the field swiftly, and then turned it over at the Oregon 31-yard line on a Dalvin Cook fumble. Oregon needed only five plays to capitalize with a touchdown.

This would become a theme for the rest of the second half.

Winston hit Travis Rudolph for an 18-yard touchdown to pull Florida State back within 25-20, but Oregon immediately raced 81 yards in five plays, with Darren Carrington taking care of the last 56 by himself on a catch-and-run from Mariota (390 total yards, three touchdowns). Trailing 32-20 in late in the third quarter, Winston hit Cook for a 10-yard completion but the freshman again fumbled the ball, and Mariota again found Carrington, this time for 30 yards, to break the game wide open at 39-20.

Then, facing a 4th-and-the season at the Oregon 30, Winston pump faked, slipped, lost the ball, and watched Tony Washington race 58 yards to put the game and Florida State’s repeat bid out of reach with 1:36 remaining in the third quarter.

Two more turnovers, a Winston interception that bounced off the hands of Ereck Dargan and a Jesus Wilson fumble, ballooned the lead to 59-20 with more than 10 minutes to play. ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit provided the eulogy: “Florida State has quit.”

Five of Florida State’s first six second-half possessions ended in turnovers, and Oregon’s first five possessions ended in touchdowns. That is how the ‘Noles never-say-die streak ended and, truly, that was the only way it could end.

And in the end, Oregon treated the defending national champions just like it treated California, and Washington State, and Oregon State, and the most of the Pac-12 throughout this run that’s seen the Ducks win everything but a national championship.

A week from Monday, they’ll play for one.

No. 2 Florida State still unconquered, rallies to beat Louisville 42-31

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Before we get to what Louisville didn’t do, first let’s discuss what Florida State did on Thursday night: overcome a 21-0 deficit on the road, score 42 points over the game’s last 30 minutes and 33 seconds, drop 580 yards of total offense (and 380 in the second half) against the nation’s top statistical defense, and held the Louisville without a third- or fourth-down conversion until the game was put away. And in the process, No. 2 Florida State extended its winning streak to 24 games with a rise-from-the-dead 42-31 victory over Louisville.

With that out of the way, here is the list of things Louisville did not do that could have pushed this game the other way:

  • Turn a 1st-and-goal at the four into points on the game’s opening possession.
  • Recover a fumble by Florida State’s Karlos Williams at the goal line in the waning moments of the first half.
  • Hold on to the ball after intercepting Jameis Winston to open the second half.
  • Corral what would have been a possible pick six, which would have pushed Louisville’s lead to 31-21.
  • Convert a third down while the game was still in doubt.
  • Catch a 4th-and-2 pass with room to run while trailing 35-31 deep into the fourth quarter.

In the end, Louisville did just enough to give its fans (and the FSU-hating masses) just enough to hope, but not enough to actually put the game away.

Florida State trailed 21-0 late in the second quarter, and got on the board 33 seconds before halftime after Nick O’Leary recovered Williams’ fumble in the end zone to pull within 21-7 at the half.

Cardinals defensive back Gerold Holliman intercepted Winston – the reigning Heisman winner’s third pick of the night, and second to Holliman – on the first play from scrimmage of the second half, but Winston then forced a fumble as Holliman fought for extra yardage, and wide receiver Travis Rudolph hopped on the loose pigskin.

Louisville forced a turn0ver on downs on the next possession and then pushed the lead to 24-7 a minute later, but the two 50/50 plays falling Florida State’s way gave the Seminoles life.

Normally a 17-point road deficit is overcome through the battle-hardened strength only veterans possess, but true freshman teamed with Winston to overcome and then put away Louisville over the last 25 minutes of the game. Winston hit freshman Rudolph for a 68-yard catch-and-run score to pull within 24-14, and then true freshman Dalvin Cook accounted for 76 yards in an 80-yard drive, including a 40-yard touchdown dash, to make the score 24-21.

Florida State took its first lead with 12:48 to go in the fourth quarter when Winston hit Ermon Lane, another freshman, for a 47-yard pass that somehow threaded through three Louisville defenders, and came one play after Holliman let a possible pick-six bounce off his knee and land incomplete.

Louisville then regained the lead with 9:20 to go on a one-yard Dyer plunge, but the Seminoles re-took it for good with a 38-yard rush by Cook. The Cardinals’ next possession ended when a Will Gardner pass bounced off tight end Charles Standberry‘s hands on 4th-and-2 at the Louisville 39 with a shade over 150 seconds to go. Florida State scored three plays later when Winston hit fullback Freddie Stevenson for a 35-yard play-action touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-6.

Winston posted his finest performance of the season, overcoming self-inflicted adversity and a bum ankle to complete 25-of-48 passes for 401 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions (and one very important forced fumble), while Cook came off the bench to account for 150 yards and two touchdowns on 13 touches.

Gardner threw for 330 yards with a touchdown and an interception, but did not rise to the moment when Louisville needed it, missing every third down pass until the game was out of reach. DeVante Parker carried the Cardinals’ passing attack with eight grabs for 214 yards. Dyer rushed 28 times for 134 yards and three touchdowns, but tallied only 39 yards in the second half.

Louisville drops to a very painful 6-3 (4-3 ACC) on the season and heads to Boston College on Saturday.

Florida State improves to 8-0 on the year, and is now one win away from becoming the 11th team in the last 50 years to mount a 25-game winning streak.

After Clemson (17-10 deficit into a 23-17 win), N.C. State (24-7 deficit into a 56-41 win), Notre Dame (17-10 deficit into a 31-27 win) and tonight, this 2014 Florida State team has taught future opponents that they had best not bother even taking a lead; defeat is inevitable, and that’s just going to make it all the more painful.